Rohypnol’s Effects on the Brain

Estimated reading time: 32 minute(s)

Rohypnol is a prescription-only medication prescribed in many parts of the world as a legitimate treatment for anxiety disorders and insomnia management. Belonging to a drug class called benzodiazepines, the medication remains highly illegal in the United States, primarily due to its ability to perpetrate sexual assaults. The medication has a rapid onset and can directly mess with the brain, leading to several short and long-term side effects, including dependence, addiction, withdrawal, and overdose. If you or someone you know has been using Rohypnol, either recreationally or for a medical reason, it is crucial to understand how Rohypnol affects the brain and learn how to minimize these side effects for a healthier, safer, and happier life. 

An Overview of Rohypnol and How it Affects the Brain

Rohypnol is a brand name for Flunitrazepam, a benzodiazepine that works as a central nervous system depressant. With effects comparable to valium, this medication is ten times more potent than the former and targets and amplifies the effects of the GABA neurotransmitter to slow down brain activity. Consuming Rohypnol can lead to immediate relaxation and sedation, two effects that have been proven beneficial for anxiety management. The drug can also induce amnesia and loss of consciousness at higher doses. Its legal uses include the management of anxiety disorders and insomnia.

The sedative effects associated with Rohypnol typically arise within 30 minutes following ingestion, peaking during the second hour. Sometimes, these results can be highly impairing, even with a dose of as little as one milligram. The overall effects may last up to 12 hours, sometimes leading to excitability and aggression.

As per the Drug Reinforcement Administration, Rohypnol remains a Schedule IV controlled substance, indicating its moderate risk for addiction, abuse, and overdose. The United States government never approved Rohypnol for use, even as a legitimate medication for medical issues like anxiety, mainly because of its rising use as a date rape drug. For these reasons, bringing Rohypnol into the United States remains a crime per the Drug-Induced Rape Prevention Act and carries the same penalty as trafficking Schedule One, two, and Three controlled drugs.

In addition to Rohypnol’s role in sexual crimes, many people use it as a recreational substance to feel euphoria or a feeling of high. Others combine it with hallucinogens, marijuana, and other illegal substances to enhance their effects. While the drug is mostly used orally as a tablet or by mixing in drinks, some people may crush the pills, snort them, or mix the powder in water and inject in the veins for faster onset of its effects.

Exploring the Effects of Rohypnol as a Date Rape Drug

Date rape drugs are commonly used by sexual predators to incapacitate and assault their victims. As per experts, almost any drug, such as alcohol, may function as a date rape drug if used in a certain way. Anyone can be at risk of being involved in a drug-facilitated sexual assault, regardless of whether they know their perpetrator or not. During the 1990s, Rohypnol emerged as a leading drug that facilitated date rapes, mainly because it was hard to confirm if someone had “roofied” a drink. However, such drinks could quickly impact how an individual acts and feels.

If you or someone around you suspects that they have accidentally consumed a drink mixed with Rohypnol, the best thing to do is go to a public place where you feel safer, contact a trustworthy individual, and call the authorities. Ensure that you act quickly, as the effects of a roofied drink may arise suddenly and take over within 15 to 30 minutes. Some of these effects include the following:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Disorientation
  • Fainting
  • Confusion
  • Tremors
  • Slurry speech
  • Severe intoxication
  • Impaired psychomotor skills and muscle control

When mixed with alcohol, Rohypnol can also cause gaps in memory and consciousness. These blackouts may last up to 24 hours, making victims wake up without remembering what happened after they started drinking. In some cases, they may also forget where they were and what they were doing several hours before they had a roofied drink.

Due to the rising use of Rohypnol as a date rape drug, manufacturers now design these tablets with certain dyes that release blue color as soon as they touch a drink. This change of color is significant enough to alert a potential victim that someone has tampered with their drink with Rohypnol. However, despite all the precautions, some companies continue to manufacture the older variants that can easily mix with drinks without leaving a trace.

Rohypnol’s Effects on the Brain: The Risk of an Overdose

For people who use Rohypnol for insomnia or anxiety management, there is always a risk of side effects. Because most of these effects are not life-threatening, they can be distressing and painful. Some of the common Rohypnol side effects on the brain include the following:

  • Amnesia
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Intoxication
  • Nausea
  • Loss of inhibition
  • Slurry speech
  • Nightmares
  • Tremors
  • Slurry speech
  • Visual disturbances

Throughout the use, a user can also be at constantly high risk for Rohypnol. An overdose occurs when the effects of a drug may overpower the body’s system. While the risk is present in all users, it is higher in those who are combining Rohypnol with other substances, such as alcohol or another benzodiazepine.

A Rohypnol overdose can be extremely dangerous and may turn fatal if urgent medical attention is not available. Hence, everyone using this medication, either for medical or non-medical purposes, must familiarize themselves with what to expect from an overdose. Some common symptoms include the following:

  • Depressed heart rate
  • Coma
  • Extreme sedation
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Speech impairment
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Trouble breathing

If you suspect that you or someone has overdosed on Rohypnol, get in touch with emergency medical services and seek help immediately to save a life.

Long-Term Rohypnol Effects: Addiction and Withdrawal

Someone who repeatedly uses Rohypnol for recreational purposes or to amplify the result of another illegal drug can easily develop Rohypnol addiction. Using this medication regularly can induce tolerance i.e., a condition where the body becomes habitual of having a medication in the system and requires a higher dose to experience the same high. This tolerance prompts users to take Rohypnol in progressively larger doses, increasing the risk of an overdose and leading to stronger euphoria.

Over time, the body becomes so habitual of Rohypnol’s effects that it starts reacting negatively when the drug is no longer in the system. As a part of this negative reaction, an individual may experience the following symptoms:

  • High light sensitivity
  • Headaches
  • Intense anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle pain
  • Trembling
  • Numbness in legs and arms
  • Tingling sensations

The symptoms mentioned above are collectively known as withdrawal symptoms and occur as the body desperately looks for Rohypnol. Some of these symptoms can be extremely dangerous and may potentially become dangerous. Due to the high intensity of these withdrawal effects, many people may turn back to using Rohypnol. To pass through this dangerous phase safely without putting yourself at unnecessary risk, experts advise seeking professional help from an addiction treatment unit. Seeking help is imperative, as Rohypnol withdrawal can be potentially fatal if not managed properly.

Managing Rohypnol Effects on the Body and Addiction

Most people struggling with Rohypnol’s long- and short-term effects on their mental and physical health are addicted to the substance.  Just like addiction is not a simple or straightforward process, recovering from it is also fairly complicated. Fortunately, there are many treatment centers where professional teams are willing to cooperate with people fighting Rohypnol addiction and help them recover and lead sober life.

The treatment programs provided at these facilities are personalized and vary according to each patient’s needs. For instance, people with comparatively lesser intense Rohypnol addiction and side effects can benefit from outpatient rehabs where they visit the facility during the day and return home after attending fixed hours of therapy. On the other hand, those with long-term Rohypnol side effects and chronic addictions may benefit from inpatient programs where they shift on-site for the duration of treatment and remain under supervision until recovery. Some rehabs also provide detox programs to help clients slowly stop using Rohypnol while managing the withdrawal process.

Following are some therapies available at these rehabs to help users overcome their Rohypnol addiction and control its side effects on life:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Aftercare support
  • Family Counseling
  • Relapse prevention
  • Dual diagnosis
  • Group therapy
  • Mindfulness techniques
  • Essential life skills

By entering an addiction treatment program, Users can combat Rohypnol’s effects on the body and quit using it for a better life.


What are the commonly available forms of Rohypnol?

Rohypnol or flunitrazepam is primarily available in the form of oral pills. The pharmaceutical companies originally used to manufacture this drug as a white tablet. However, because of a rising incidence of people using it as a date rape drug, the medication is now available as an olive-green pill with blue-colored speckles on the core. These speckles release dyes in light-colored drinks, making it easier for people to know if someone has used Rohypnol to tamper with their drinks. It is important to note that generic versions of flunitrazepam may not have this color-coded precaution.

What are some other names for Rohypnol?

Rohypnol is available in the streets under different names. Some of the most common ones include the following:

  • Roach 2
  • Ruffles
  • Forget-me drug
  • Mexican valium
  • La Rocha

Can Rohypnol cause addiction?

Addiction and dependence are one of the many effects of Rohypnol on the brain. Due to its intense sedative effects, a person using it regularly may become habitual of the relaxing sensations it produces. Consistent use can also force the brain to adapt to Rohypnol’s presence in the system and cause withdrawal effects when a user stops taking it. Withdrawal from Rohypnol can be particularly dangerous and may include symptoms such as delirium, hallucinations, and seizures.

Can mixing Rohypnol with other drugs increase its effects on the brain?

Rohypnol’s effects on the brain can intensify if you mix it with certain substances. The drug acts as a depressant of the central nervous system, which means that when you combine it with other sedative-hypnotics, the overall sedation will amplify. For instance, many people add roofies to alcohol in bars and pubs. Because alcohol also acts as a central nervous system depressant, it interacts with Rohypnol to induce severe sedation, stupor, respiratory depression, blackouts, and loss of consciousness. Such combinations can also heighten the risk of slipping into a coma and death. In addition to alcohol, mixing Rohypnol with other club drugs, such as ketamine and GHB, can also lead to fatal consequences.

Can I overdose on Rohypnol?

It is possible for anyone to overdose on Rohypnol as it is more potent than other drugs of a similar category, such as valium. However, the risk of such overdoses is much higher in people who are using the medication for non-medical reasons, such as to get high. The notorious fame of Rohypnol as a date drug means that it is commonly used alongside alcohol, which further increases the risk of an overdose. Mentioned below are some common symptoms suggesting that you have consumed a fatally high dose of Rohypnol and require medical help:

  • Reduced reflexes
  • Mental confusion
  • Extreme sleepiness or fatigue
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Loss of coordination
  • Lethargy

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